Every day I find myself, to my horror, becoming J. Alfred Prufrock. Last night I had a pork chop for dinner. Today I had a pork chop for dinner. The same pork chop! Half of it yesterday, half of it today. Good Lord, just thinking about that is enough to make me want to weep.
I used to eat four pork chops at a sitting without batting an eye, plus a small mountain of mashed potatoes and a cup and a half of gravy. No more. No more. Do I dare to eat a peach? I’d love to, but I can’t open my mouth wide enough for a respectable bite, and I probably wouldn’t eat the whole thing even if I could open up.
I do not believe in aging gracefully, and the eyes of strangers and reflective surfaces make it eminently clear that I am not. Poor Navy-days or college-days Roger would be utterly horrified were we to somehow bump into one another. I’m here, now, and I’m horrified. How could who I have always been (and still am within my own mind) have become this Nosferatu-like creature…this ironically pseudonymed picture of Dorian Gray?
Please believe me when I say that I’m not being maudlin (not intentionally, anyway) or taking a high dive into the bottomless Pity Pool. I’m merely observing. I am hurtling down the steep slope of time with no brakes and little steering control and I am frozen like a deer in the headlights unable to do a thing to save myself. It’s a ride we all must take, if we’re lucky enough to live long enough, but the thing is that it happens to us as individuals, and very few of us are prepared for it.
When Eliot says, of J. Alfred, “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons,” I can relate. We each tend to concentrate so strongly on the little details of each day that we seldom take the time to realize just how much there is going on around us that we either are totally unaware of or simply choose to ignore. I know that for myself I am so busy writing about my life that I miss many opportunities to live it.
J. Alfred says, “I shall wear the bottom of my trousers rolled.” I always wondered what that meant until I realized that whereas I used to be 5’10 ½” tall, I am now probably somewhere around 5’9”, though I’ve not measured lately. Something to do with spinal compression or some such thing, I imagine, and I do not wear my trousers rolled. But I am aware that I am shorter than I was. (Not being able to stand with one’s head held high is a definite contributing factor.)
My favorite line in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is: “I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think they will sing to me.” As a gay man living on the edge of Chicago’s gay heart, I have paraphrased that to, “I hear the mermen singing, each to each. I know they do not sing to me.” And it hurts. I realize how silly that is to say. After all, I was doing wonderful things long before the beautiful young men who surround me on the streets were conceived—or conceived of. I have had more than my share of romances and loves and parties and partners. But much as I do realize how ungrateful I sound for setting the past aside as though it didn’t matter, the fact is that it did matter so very much, and I am greedy.
Yes, I had it all once. But I want it all NOW.
Well, perhaps on my next turn on the Merry-Go-Round….
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site: doriengrey.com: